Monday, May 7, 2012

Germany - Acclimating to a New Land

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Bocholt roundabout. Photo caption: Belgium Barb
40 Miles – Friday, August 19

We spent the last of the Guilder on lunch food and apple tarts at a bakery, then crossed the German border. Like entering any country, signs change. Andy photographed me beside an empty border inspection station, presumably unused since the formation of the European Union.

Bike path near Bocholt.  Photo credit: CS.UNCA
I wasn’t looking forward to pedaling in Germany, fearing the wonderful cycling paths would abruptly come to a halt. But the continuing trail network surprised me. We spent 2 hours in Bocholt withdrawing the local currency and locating a map, all the while stumbling with the language. At an international city bank we miraculously withdrew – for the first time  currency directly from an Auto Geld machine (ATM). We were surprised. For 6 weeks we’d made sure the banks were open to utilize our VISA card. That buoyed our spirits. There are approximately 1.58 Marks to the U.S. Dollar. Eventually we pedaled eastward through more flat farmland. 

So far, some people speak a bit of English, which has helped. Cashiers at grocery stores often point to the register. We need to learn a few numbers in German.

Farmhouses and attached barns. Photo credit: DB City
The use of brick for construction is striking. Enormous farmhouses are attached to brickwork barns. All churches are also made of masonry – only the steeple is metal. Entire villages look like a red Lego masterpiece.

We cruise through Bratwurst country. Or at least we think we do. The strong smoked pork aroma permeates the air. And following shortly thereafter the stench of pig excrement is downright foul. For my vegetarian husband even for myself – the smell is overwhelming. It’s enough to make us move faster.

Photo credit: Bocholt for cyclists
In the past couple of days, Andy and I have been plagued with a stomach virus. Thankfully, it’s getting better day by day.

We have problems consuming enough water. It’s difficult to hydrate when we stop ever half-hour to relieve ourselves. I attribute it to the bumpy bike paths – it’s hard to pedal with a full bladder. Public toilets have been non-existent on the European continent. We’re accustomed to using the woods before or after entering a town.

Camping tonight is 15 marks, without showers. Since entering France showers have been pay-as-you-go. If it hasn’t been hot, we take one every two or three days.


  1. The whole trip sounds wonderful, funny how it is the things that go wrong that are the most memorable from travelling, at least that is what I often find. In Europe, there are free toilets at Macdonalds, if you go into a coffee shop or restaurant you can also ask to use their toilet, and you don't always have to buy something there to do it. It may come in handy for your next trip there to know this.

  2. Ah, I knew about McDonalds, but not the coffee shops. But often when we were in little towns with many miles in between, it's easier to just go in the woods.

    When traveling, you just deal with the good and the bad. The bad isn't necessarily the most memorable. I have day by day journal entries. I could've glossed over the "ugly" but I'm writing this as a travelogue.

    I'll remember about the cafes when My girlfriend and I go to Switzerland and France this summer. Thanks.

  3. Oh yes the good things are great too and a journal is a wonderful thing to keep. I agree travel makes you deal with those everyday things that are so easy at home and which become a challenge when you are away. One of the best travel memories I have is of missing a train, I had two of my kids with me and it was in France and getting late at night. We had to bribe our way onto the next train and were there with invalid tickets in first class not knowing the language when the inspectors came around. I kept imagining us getting thrown into jail, but it was all OK as it turned out, one of the best memories. I look forward to reading about your trip later this year.

  4. Cycling and viruses don't make great bed fellows do they? Because that's exactly where you want to be - bed :-) I spent 2 hrs getting home with a bout of Norovirus a few weeks ago and, totally against the grain, I suddenly wished I was driving! It is amazing how comforting crawling into a familiar tent can be though. A bit of canvas or nylon can quickly grow to be 'home' when touring.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your trip plans as it draws closer.


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